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Generosity this community should not take for granted

August 19, 2005

The Washington County Gaming Commission announced last week that 96 local nonprofits will share a bit more than $3 million.

It's the largest payout since the program began 10 years ago and will support everything from the Community Free Clinic to all of the county's fire and rescue companies.

Last month the Community Foundation of Washington County announced that 16 local nonprofits will get more than $4 million, providing that they match that amount over five years.

Our point in repeating these stories is to remind citizens that both the Gaming Commission and the Community Foundation support activities that otherwise might have to be funded with tax dollars - or that might not be done at all.

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Neither of these organizations was the result of an initiative or a mandate from the state or federal government. Local people volunteered their time to craft institutions that would improve and enrich the community.

Tip-jar gambling was first legalized in 1976, ostensibly to provide for "charitable gambling." But a Herald-Mail check of private clubs' tax return found that only a small percentage was actually going to charity. After Frederick County passed a gambling law in 1992, the push was on here.

A gaming task force moderated by Kathleen Hall, who also served as executive director of the United Way of Washington County, drew up recommendations that became the basis for the 1995 law.

The Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly took a lot of political heat, but ultimately got the bill passed. Last session the delegation deterred an effort by the state to take over local gambling regulation.

The Community Foundation was formed in 1996 under the leadership of local businessman Merle Elliott and others. In 1997 it had $100,000 in investments, a total that has now grown to just under $9 million.

That was due in large part of the generosity of local folks such as John and Margaret Waltersdorf, who funded part of the challenge grant to those 16 nonprofits.

These positive things happened because good people in the local area decided that spending their time and money on projects to benefit the local area was more important than indulging themselves.

For doing these things, they got no salaries, but we urge citizens to remember their hard work and offer them your thanks.

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